As a leading global city with a high population density, Singapore is at risk for the introduction of novel biological threats. This risk has been recently reinforced by human epidemics in Singapore of SARS coronavirus, 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza A virus, and enterovirus 71. Other major threats to Singapore include MERS-coronavirus and various avian and swine influenza viruses. The ability to quickly identify and robustly track such threats to initiate an early emergency response remains a significant challenge. In an effort to enhance respiratory virus surveillance in Singapore, our team conducted a pilot study employing a noninvasive bioaerosol sampling method to detect respiratory viruses in Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network. Over a period of 52 weeks, 89 aerosol samples were collected during peak MRT ridership hours. Nine (10%) tested positive for adenovirus, four (4.5%) tested positive for respiratory syncytial virus type A, and one (1%) tested positive for influenza A virus using real-time RT-PCR/PCR. To our knowledge, this is the first time molecular evidence for any infectious respiratory agent has been collected from Singapore’s MRT. Our pilot study data support the possibility of employing bioaerosol samplers in crowded public spaces to noninvasively monitor for respiratory viruses circulating in communities.
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